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The Trickster

The other day I wrote a post about the Trickster. Initially I was pretty happy with it, but something wasn't quite right because I published it, and then unpublished it. It had a familiar tone that I have been using and it was totally sincere. But in the end, I couldn't leave it up. Maybe it's because I wrapped it up so nicely when, in real life, it's not yet wrapped up nicely.. I'm in the thick of it with the Trickster. It's a battle I intend to win in the long run, but I haven't won yet. Let me back up and clue you in...

Recently at the gym I had a conversation with my coach about running and my (troubled) head space. As I was leaving, I noticed a note in bold type that was taped to the desk that said:


Which I read as:


HA! I wish I could put away my thoughts sometimes. How can my thoughts be so beneficial in some ways, and so destructive in another? Why can't I just turn them off when I run? Why don't I lose myself in my run like other runners do? Because for all of my thinking, reflecting, and imagining that serves me well in so many ways--there is another side to that coin. For some reason, when I'm running, that coin flips--and all the thinking, reflecting, and imagining takes a downward spiral, ending in one simple message with every step: STOP! You have to stop! STOP RUNNING!! And I don't like it.

Believe me, over the past 4 1/2 years I have been at war with this kind of thinking. It took me by complete surprise in the beginning. I didn't know what I was doing or how things should feel, or what I was capable of, so these thoughts often won, ending with me crying or quitting or procrastinating. But I began to learn how to push a little in my workouts. I learned techniques. I learned about shoes and gear and fueling--all things that would outwit those thoughts, giving me a win and a boost of confidence. But it would regroup and strike again. Then I would gather more skills and information; I would dig in even further. I would advance, it would retreat, only to regroup again to meet me at the next trailhead. It seems that the more miles under my feet, and the more lessons learned, the stronger those thoughts would come on. And then I had this idea: maybe these aren't thoughts, exactly. Maybe this is a Trickster...

So, what is a Trickster? A Trickster is a character--common in African and Native American stories--who is cunning and intelligent and uses these qualities to play tricks, often with no real purpose. One definition of a Trickster said:


In African tales the trickster’s prey (me) is usually earnest, hardworking, and slow-witted (ouch) and soon yields to the smooth arguments and attractive promises (or suggestions of lack of ability) of his opponent...

...AND...A Trickster's wordplay is marvelous. (well, convincing, anyway) They can find a loophole in the wording of any rule...With their crafty whisper, they can manipulate you by pandering to your ego (this gets bypassed--I have no running ego) or preying on your worst fears (like, "this is ridiculous, you're old, you're slow, what's the point"!)

If I think about these thoughts (my thoughts) that barge in with no manners and no discernible desire as just a Trickster, as something kind of separate from me, something that's playing a game that I can master, then maybe I can shake it. Somethings gotta give, either my big dreams or the Trickster. He's won a lot in the past, but then again, I didn't know he was there. Now that I know who I'm up against, I may have a fighting chance.

For now, my Trickster still shows up every time I run, but that's to be expected--he has been calling the shots for a long time. But when I got on my feet and literally started running, he got a little nervous and started to lose some pull, because running tells the truth, not just about running but about life.

And the wordplay, loopholes and crafty whispers are losing their power to the truths that running teaches, like: I can go farther, faster, and dig deeper than I ever imagined. My age is whatever, and the sky just might actually be the limit. I get to define what success is. What I want is not ridiculous. And I can be great, because that's not only about performance. It's also about effort and heart and character.

I'm hoping that if I keep the faith, the Trickster will start to get bored with me. He does not love hard work. He does not tolerate long runs. And as his slow-witted opponent (me) begins to pick up the pace, maybe he will leave me alone, thought-free and happy on a trail.